Picture gallery: Go on behind-the-scenes tour to see new hatchling tortoises at Linton Zoo

Sulcata Giant Tortoise hatchlings, just hours old

Sulcata Giant Tortoise hatchlings, just hours old - Credit: Archant

VISITORS to Linton Zoo will be able to get up, close and personal with hatchling tortoises and their parents on a VIP, behind-the-scenes tour.

The baby Sulcata Giant Tortoises were born recently and the tour is a newly-introduced idea to raise funds for the zoo’s support of a new Turtle Conservation Project starting in Guyana.

Zoo manager Kim Simmons said: “The babies at Linton don’t live in the paddock with their parents as they are not big enough yet, but are cared for in nursery tanks in the reptile house.

“There are already other zoos setting up the facilities to provide a long-term home for some of the youngsters. Others will be placed in collections already holding the species across Europe to help breeding genetics, whilst a few will stay here with us.

“The Sulcata giants have wonderful characters, but a strong enclosure with lots of space for them to graze and dig is necessary in captivity to keep them happy and safe. We wonder what the world will be like in 150 years when these individuals reach old age.”

Linton Zoo has many different species of tortoise in its care.

The African Spurred or Sulcata Giant Tortoises have always featured highly at the tourist attraction, which has a herd of six breeding adults – averaging around 40 years old. One has travelled the world with its former owner having been rescued as a hatchling from children using him as a football in Mauritania, Africa.

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Sulcatas are the largest mainland species of Tortoise, a giant weighing up to 95kg and growing up to 90cm long. Tortoises are generally known for their longevity, being some of the longest lived creatures on the planet. There is no way to know the exact age of a tortoise unless you know its hatch date, but one record shows an individual living to 165-years-old!

The Sulcata is found from the west to the east coast of central Africa and is currently ranked as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN Red List. Fortunately zoological collections have mastered the art of reproduction through captive breeding programmes and can supply tortoises for re-release should this be necessary.

• Visit the Linton Zoo website or Facebook page for more information.